I know many of you will be following the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation across the globe. Fortunately, here in the ACT, we have yet to have any confirmed cases.
However, we are monitoring the situation each day and responding accordingly.
The Australian Government will suspend travel from Italy to Australia effective from 6pm tonight, for everyone except Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Our travel policy closely follows DFAT travel advice, and accordingly our travel approvals for Italy have changed.
Staff and students intending to travel to Italy will no longer be able to do so. HR and Global Programs will contact relevant staff and students.
Currently we have no staff in Italy. We are in contact with our students in Italy and have offered support to return to Australia. Any returning students will need to self-isolate for 14 days, and we will support them to do this.
The Australian Government has also suspended travel from China, South Korea and Iran into Australia. Please monitor Home Affairs website for updates: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/news-media/current-alerts/novel-coronavirus
Given the rapidly changing situation, we strongly recommend staff, students, supervisors and travel delegates reconsider all international travel plans.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that all official university travel be planned, approved, booked and undertaken in accordance with the University's travel policy, including using the University's travel approvals system. There are no exceptions to this. We can only support you if we know where you are. This reduces worry for colleagues who care about you.
At 12.30pm tomorrow in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, we will hold an open forum for staff and students. ANU experts will provide information about COVID-19, address some common myths and talk about actions we can take to prevent the spread. Please register here.
A University COVID-19 action plan is being prepared, covering the main scenarios and how we can continue with normal University activities safely and effectively.
We have a dedicated team from College and Service Divisions working through the challenges related to teaching and research activities, including how we can support your ability to work remotely. The safety of our community is always our highest priority and we are taking proactive and considered measures to ensure the wellbeing of all ANU students and staff.
Simple measures in the workplace
While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT, it is important that we continue to follow Australian Government Department of Health and ACT Health advice to help prevent the spread of germs. There are simple steps we can all take to keep ourselves and others safe. See more detailed information here:
The World Health Organization also provides advice on how we can prevent the spread of COVID-19: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
Be mindful to keep your desk and office spaces clean, be considerate of each other's space and avoid handshakes.
ACT Health have carried out more than 300 tests so far, all with negative results. Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt self-isolated and was tested last week too - with a negative result: https://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/vcs-update-iwd-and-flexible-work-that-works-for-you
Those who are getting tested and self-isolating are doing the right thing. If someone in Canberra does test positive, ACT Health will ensure the care of that person and manage the community response, including contacting those who have come into contact.
We are a diverse and inclusive community and it is important that we continue to support each other. If you do see a colleague or student who is unwell, please be mindful of their self-esteem. There are always positive ways to express your concern for them.
You can feel confident that anybody who meets the Government requirements for self-isolation, is in self-isolation. And anyone you see on campus has already met all the necessary health requirements.
If you are feeling unwell, do not come to campus. It's important that you take time to recover. If you develop symptoms, you can call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.
If you do stay home from work remain in your residence and restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
I know there is a lot of media and social media attention on COVID-19 and it's natural for you to feel concerned for yourself and our community. I assure you that your safety and health is our highest priority.
ANU infectious disease experts say the community should remain calm about a COVID-19 pandemic, for the following reasons:
- There are very few cases of the coronavirus in Australia, compared with other countries.
- There is no uncontrolled spread of the disease in Australia, and experts and health authorities don't anticipate the situation to change anytime soon.
- For most people coronavirus symptoms will be very mild. Mortality is low for coronavirus and the risk is very low for those in our community under 70.
- The infection rate of the coronavirus is only three to 10 per cent within households, and even lower out in the community.
You will be able to hear from our experts tomorrow at the community forum.
I'd like to thank you all for your continued compassion and support of each other during this difficult time. You can find more information about the support available to you and our community here: https://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/support-for-you-and-our-community
Chief Operating Officer
*Sent Wednesday 11 March 3.07pm AEDT